Coffee and Depression

Written by Lori Thiessen

As I battle with my own chronic depression, I’m always interested in finding out new ways of dealing with it. There are some who claim that coffee can help depression and other (a great many others) who say that coffee increases your depression.

I’ve been trying to find some bona fide medical source to give me the low-down on this issue and so far all I’ve come up with are a lot of contradictory non-medical opinions. The closest article I came to was one at bodyandfitness.com which has a number of medical studies cited in it.

The writer reported that while depression can be a result of caffeine addiction, coffee drinkers are 58-66 per cent LESS likely to commit suicide than non-coffee drinkers.

But another study showed that psychiatric patients who were coffee drinkers are more likely to suffer from depression. Frankly, I think that just being labelled as a psychiatric patient  and all the social stigma attached to it could probably lead to depression.

So who do I believe? Even the writer of the article seemed to be stumped at these opposing indicators.

My father always believed in moderation. He drank one cup of coffee in the morning  with breakfast for as long as I remember. As far as I know, he never suffered from depression or if he did, he hid it pretty well.

It seems to me to be common sense that if you over indulge in anything, you are going to have problems.  Coffee does give a quick pick-me-up but drinking a lot of coffee may cause depression.

I’ve read that people who are Scandinavians or people who have Scandinavian ancestry are more likely to suffer from depression than other ethnic groups. And the Scandinavians also love their coffee.

Now, does this mean that the Nordic peoples’ heavy coffee drinking habits have created an endemic depression? Or does the coffee drinking help off-set depression caused by light deprivation from being so far north?

But as far as I know, historically the Inuit people generally do not suffer from depression and they are not noted coffee drinkers. However, as the Inuit people adapt  the North American lifestyle and eshew their traditional culture, depression could now be a problem.

Hmmm.

Some bright medical/sociological spark will have to figure this one out, not me.  For now, I’ll stick to my dad’s rule of one cup of coffee in the morning.  People with depression often have a difficult time in the morning so that one jolt of caffeine might be enough to at least get the ball rolling.  But no more and don’t add any sugar in it because excess sugar consumption has also been linked to depression.

So order me one medium americano – no milk, no sugar and I will give you a big smile and say “Thank you. You made my day begin!”

Q: What are your thoughts on caffeine and depression?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

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15 responses to “Coffee and Depression

  1. Hi Lori,

    I too suffer from frequent depression. I also find that a cup of coffee once in a while makes me feel a whole lot better. However, my single class in psychology (not much, I know) would suggest that the key to long term energy and relative happiness is to avoid caffeine all together and focus on your sleep patterns. Even though most people don’t consider it so, sleep is probably the single most important factor of mental health. It’s also a far more complex bodily function than most people suspect. The average adult needs at minimum 8 hours a night, and the more the better (Lance Armstrong sleeps 10 hours a night plus power naps). This means developing a consistent sleep schedule all 7 days of the week. You know you are getting enough sleep when not only do you not need caffeine to feel energized, but you don’t need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning.

    Anyway all that’s good in theory, but its very difficult to maintain, at least for me.

    • Hi Noah!

      Thanks for writing in. Sleeping is indeed often overlooked in terms of maintaining good health, especially in our frenetic 24/7 world. I looked at the issue of ‘sleep hygiene’ a while ago and it is, as you say, a much more complex function than we think. In fact, the medical community doesn’t really know why we sleep. But it’s clear that we do need much more than we are getting on average. It would be great if we could all sleep as thoroughly as Lance Armstrong, but for most of us this just isn’t an option. So I’ll try my best to sleep as much as I can as regularly as I can but still have that cuppa joe on those slow, walking-through-thick-mud, mornings.

      Thanks again!
      Lori

  2. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote once that coffee make you depressed. i cant remember where he wrote it. but i never forgot that quote. i think he was RIGHT.
    i quit coffee every once in a white but unfortunately i start drinking it again. call it a bad habit. one day i’ll put my foot down and stop altogether. but i know that coffee especially with sugar is NOT good for you…you’re better off with TEA. less caffein and some good stuff in it like selenium. if you get any buzz from drinking tea is from not getting any down feeling after coffee…
    hope that’s helpfull.
    regards

    • Hi Ludwig!

      Thanks for your comment. How interesting that Nietzsche was interested in the effects of coffee! I would suggest that drinking too much coffee is definitely bad for you but drinking about 1 cup a day isn’t that bad. Some health studies even show that there may be some great benefits to drinking a little coffee, in the way of preventing certain types of cancer, diabetes and stroke. But some people are more sensitive to caffeine and probably shouldn’t drink coffee at all. Sounds like you are in the latter group, Ludwig. I wish you every success in kicking what you see as a bad habit.

      Cheers,
      Lori

  3. Hi! I have noticed lately that especially after drinking a couple cups of coffee, I get extremely sad and sometimes even start crying. I have been going through some depression and thought it was just that; but noticed the pattern on how I was feeling right after coffee. I feel too much of a good thing is not good.

    • Hi Carrie!

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Good for you for taking the time to notice your patterns around when your depression worsens. I totally agree that too much of a good thing is not good.

      I wish you good luck in your continued fight against your depression. Stay strong!
      Lori

  4. I had a cup of coffee today… it would be the first I’ve had in months and months and a few hours later I feel oddly depressed! It’s the only thing I can think of that I did differently today. 😦

    • Hello!

      I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling depressed after a cup of coffee. You are probably more sensitive to caffeine than most. I would strongly urge you to seek out your healthcare practitioner’s advice on this matter.

      Wishing you good health soon.
      Lori

  5. Check out Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherinske. The book offers enough a thorough examination of caffeine’s effects. Cherinske is a nutritionist and provides evidence from various peer-reviewed studies.

    Here is the Amazon link:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Caffeine-Blues-Hidden-Dangers-Americas/dp/0446673919

    The book is definitely an eye-opener. But yes, if you only have one cup of coffee a day you should be fine.

    • Hi Andrew!

      Thanks for writing in and recommending this book on caffeine. Coffee is considered to be a ‘soft’ drug in the medical community, to my knowledge. As with many drugs, it is best to treat it with respect and caution.

      Cheers,
      Lori

  6. Thanks Lori.

    I have been quite happy with Caffeine Blues; it has been a real eye-opener towards the harmful effects of caffeine. I still believe that drinking coffee in small doses/moderation can be ok, but at the same time I think that drinking a substantial amount of coffee daily to the level of dependence can be very detrimental to mood.

    I honestly think that caffeine is an underestimated drug. I have been trying to quit it for about 5 days now after having consumed a consistent amount of about two Starbucks tall coffees (apparently 270mgs per cup each) a day for 7 years. I have cut down on the amount but it has probably wavered around 300/400mgs a day, and I read somewhere that the recommended healthy dosage is 300mgs.

    After 5 days I have been suffering horrible side-effects which include an inability to concentrate, severe headaches with a “hot head” (excessive blood concentration in the head perhaps according to online literature), fatigue, weakness, anxiety, depression, and incessant worrying about everything, especially the symptoms. I worry about the symptoms because looking back over the past couple of years I realize that I have been experiencing them to a lesser extent while cutting down on coffee slowly. The symptoms are so severe that I worry that they are resulting from some other disorder. I have myself worried to the point that I’m rendered non-functional in society (and a lot of this I would say is caffeine withdrawal).

    Fortunately I’m at a point in my life where I have nothing going on for a few weeks. Hopefully in a month or so this will all subside, as many others have said it has for them. But where I stand now with the headaches being erratic and unpredictable, I feel as though there really might be something wrong with me besides caffeine withdrawal. I hope that it is just caffeine withdrawal but if it is, it’s absolutely HORRIBLE and no one should have to go through with this. I would be of no use to an employer in my current state. I’m of no use to anyone especially myself.

    If I remember I’ll report back to let anyone interested know if these symptoms subside. Remember I’ve only been wavering around 300mgs to 400mgs of caffeine per day…that’s essentially within the recommended dosage. My chronic worrying and suspicion over my coffee habit sounds entirely bizarre to just about all my friends (and I don’t blame them really, they don’t know what it’s like). It took 7 years to get to the point where caffeine seemed to be robbing me on a daily basis but I’m happy to say I’m finally giving it up.

    Of course, in the distant future maybe after a month I might indulge in the odd coffee, but I will be extremely careful and restrictive. This withdrawal is horrible.

  7. my acupuncturist recently recommended a couple of things re: coffee. he said never drink coffee on an empty stomach ’cause it’s too much of a shock to the system and suggested that coffee grown in volcanic soil can help with depression. so far i have not been able to find out why (the latter) but i order 5 pounds of coffee at a time from a company called cafe mam and they claim their coffee is grown on volcanic soil. and it’s fair trade and shade grown and organic. i did also try 5 pounds of sumatra recently from a place called volcanic red which was quite good too.

  8. I believe the effects of coffee consumption vary dramatically for different people and probably for different diets.

    I have at least 2 espressos and one cup of tea before breakfast, I continue having regular espressos throughout the day. I seldom get headaches or other problems. I’ll happily drink espresso at 9 pm and sleep well by midnight.

    The only time I’ve had depressive symptoms whilst drinking coffee is when I drink coffee to try and counter the effects of alcohol from the night before. Obviously in this instance, the coffee is not the problem.

    Because of this I believe the most important drug to avoid, if depression is an issue, is alcohol, not caffeine.

  9. I’ve been wrestling with my most recent bout of depression for 4 months now. And my life really got nuts in september: I had just moved, started college, sleep schedule is all over the place, and my girlfriend dumped me. For whatever reason, coffee seems to lift the heavy bleakness. I would venture a guess that its not really the caffein, but the flavor of coffee i really enjoy that picks me up. I suppose a turkey and cheese sandwich could have the same effect if i liked it as much as coffee.

  10. Hi there! I do not suffer from depression, but when I drink coffee or black tea I often feel as though I need to cry not too long after…. I also get hand pain and on occasion back pain. I have always been moderate with my eating habits and most times have one cup of coffee or tea a day. The only scientific articles I could find relating to these bizarre reactions had to do with mycotoxins, or fungal spores that colonize the beans and tea leaves while they are drying after harvest. Surprisingly there is one company out there that has mycotoxin free coffee called bulletproof coffee. I am still not able to drink coffee or black tea without reaction, but the pain etc. is not nearly as bad when I drink b.p. Coffee exclusively. If I had to guess I would say everyone has different sensitivities and ways of processing the chemicals found in food and drink and that there likely is not one concrete answer for weather or not a type of drink or food is good for all people. If you look at ayervedic medicine people are often put into categories and given lists of foods/drinks that they are to avoid or eat lots of based on their body type. Each body type is different as are the lists of what not to eat. Might be worth looking into what body type you are… Perhaps your body type will indicate weather or not coffee is good for you to have.

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